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The Case of the Shrinking Penis

by Gene Logsdon

Gene Logsdon, The Contrary Farmer -- Click image for full-screen view (179 KB)
Gene Logsdon, The Contrary Farmer
Photo by T.L. Gettings, Rodale Images. Full screen [179 kb]

Americans smirk at Ruandans and other African societies which lately seem to be on a binge of penis phobia. There have been reports of angry crowds slaughtering witch doctors who were thought to be casting spells on males to shrink their penises. But a new and alarming and respected scientific theory suggests that First World industries have cast a "spell" on penises throughout the world. Not to mention breasts, livers, thyroids, and other glands.

Alligators in Florida are turning up with shrunken or deformed sex glands, as are fish in the Great Lakes and off the coast of England, as well as birds in California. These problems have been tentatively traced (some scientists say conclusively) to hormone compounds in wastewater or, in more cases, to synthetic endocrine disrupters in pesticides and other industrial chemicals that mimic natural hormones.

Growth hormones are present naturally in the body in very minute quantities, and even an extremely small additional amount can upset the endocrine system, especially in the very young, says Theo Colborn, the leading scientist in this investigation. These endocrine disrupters are being fingered as possible causes of reproductive problems of women whose mothers took DES (diethylstibestrol, also used to make cattle gain weight faster) and to the general decline in sperm counts being recorded in various regions, as well as rising incidences of testicular cancer. Some scientists see a causal connection between breast cancer and hormone distruptors too.

Although industry and agribusiness are pooh-poohing the theory, the scientific evidence is grave enough to have led opposing debaters to issue this consensus statement in 1991:

"We estimate with confidence that some of the developmental impairments reported in humans today are seen in adult offspring of parents exposed to synthetic hormone disruptors ... released in the environment. The concentrations of the number of synthetic sex hormone agonists and antagonists measured in the U.S. human population today are well within the range and dosages at which effects are seen in wildlife populations. ... Unless the environmental load of synthetic hormone disruptors is abated and controlled, large-scale disfunction ... is possible."

Wouldn't it be a tragic irony if those advertisements you see everywhere of macho, meat-chewing athletes with milky mustaches and xylophone abs become only mockeries of the truth: cardboard fronts hiding low sperm counts and shrivelled genitals?

See also:

More from Gene Logsdon: Thoughts On Economic 'Inevitability'

Excerpted from Gene Logsdon's soon-to-be published (expected 6/1/97) book: The Contrary Farmer's Invitation to Gardening. All Rights Reserved/© by the author. Permission to use must be obtained in person from Gene Logsdon (419) 294-2002, or in writing from the publisher, Chelsea Green Publishing Company

Logsdon writes from his farm in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, and is a frequent contributor to Ohio Magazine. Logsdon's previous books include The Contrary Farmer, available from Chelsea Green Publishing Company, and At Nature's Pace, published by Pantheon. You can order Logsdon's books from Amazon.com Books.

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